Posts Tagged ‘routine’

In a true “better late than never” fashion, it’s that time of year. Forget Hellweek, this is

FINALS WEEK

Keeping up with tradition dictates that I put off gobs of assignments until the last possible moment, and even then, I stumble or limp to the finish line in my attempts to get them done. For our Week 14 assignments in DigiLit class, we were asked to put together a digital story entailing a metaphor about learning: how we learn, what we think about learning, how we teach, something along those lines. I thought about this one for awhile (obviously). How do I learn? What do I think of it? This isn’t something I’ve ever really thought about. What defines me as a learner? How have I made it to where I’ve made it?

Then it clicked. Without discipline, routine, and determination, I wouldn’t be the learner I am. These components sound strikingly similar to another facet of life that I take almost no part in. The irony of my metaphor is palpable, but I felt it was the best one that fit. Rather than go the Powerpoint or YouTube route with my digital story, I decided to roll with something I’m a bit more fond of: the Podcast format.

For the lazy or time-constrained among you, here’s the story transcribed into text:

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Learning is a workout routine.

Not literally, mind you. If I know anything, it’s that exercise and I get along together about as well as fire and kerosine.

No, no, learning is a mental exercise. And not in that “Lumosity.com” kind of way. Your avenue, whether it be a classroom, books, or the internet, is your gym. Learning, much like physical activity, is a process that requires strict discipline, definitive goals, and oddly enough, variety.

I have friends who are weight lifters (the protein shake and Facebook memes kind), and they have a very methodical process. Each day consists of a warm-up, a workout of a different particular group of muscles, a cool down, and the maintaining of a strict diet designed around whatever their particular goals might be. Need bulk? Protein all day, everyday: chicken breasts, eggs, steaks, etcetera. Most will give themselves one rest day a week so their bodies don’t completely rebel and shut off completely from the immense stress.

Learning, I’ve found, is almost exactly the same. Learning will not just come to you out of the blue. You need to dedicate yourself to the process. Randomly surfing through Wikipedia articles doesn’t count, either. If you want to learn about something, you must discipline yourself to do so.

When I was in middle and high school in Alliance, Nebraska, marching band was an extremely popular activity. It reached across the boundaries of “cliques,” uniting the jocks, geeks, and stoner kids alike under a common banner. As you can probably imagine, trying to teach 100 pre-teens / angry teenagers how to march in time, let alone play an instrument, was nigh impossible. For band director of 33 years Dick Rischling, however, anything less than perfect was unacceptable. Dick Rischling was a man who would go for a 2 mile run and smoke a cigarette every step of the way. The man provided us with gems such as, “I love conflict! I win them all!” and “I hate cymbals, they sound horrible.” Every morning at 7:30 AM, a half hour before classes started, all 100 of us would show up, line up on a practice field in the rain or snow, and march with Dick Rischling barking commands from a megaphone. The man taught us to stand up straight, carry ourselves with some dignity, and above all: discipline. This discipline is something I’ve carried with me throughout my schooling career. Without it, I doubt I would have reached any level of success. In order to do well, you have to want to do well. You have to want to improve to improve.

Once discipline is instilled in a learner, different learners will find that they have a different “core group” of muscles that are already strengthened: some people are naturals at maths and sciences, but awful at humanities. Along this same vein, different people have different primary methods of learning. Some are auditory learners, preferring to listen to lectures or podcasts, while others are strictly visual, favoring note-taking and reading. Others still are “hands on” learners, better at learning through a “do as I do” method of teaching. While it’s natural to want to focus on your best attribute in terms of subject material, just because exercise is routine doesn’t mean you should forego adding variety to your workout. At some point, you will plateau. You will reach a ceiling that will seem impossible to break out of, and the best way to continue is to try something different before returning to that plateau. This is why weight-lifters rotate the muscle groups being worked on each day: an immensely powerful upper body is useless without the leg day to support it.

By identifying which style of learner a person is, they can also best figure out how to approach these different subjects. With the internet, there is no shortage of resources for learners of all strengths and weaknesses. If weight lifting isn’t your strong suit, maybe cardio is more your thing. Maybe yoga or some type of martial art is your best avenue. Take whatever learning style is best for you, and apply it to all subjects. See what works and what doesn’t. Identify and improve upon your weaknesses, even if only minutely.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, is that the principle of “use it or lose it” applies just as much with learning as it does with physical exercise. Your brain, the supercomputer that it is, is going to deem skills or knowledge left unused unessential. The way to avoid this is to stay in practice. Remember to review the concepts you already have a firm grasp on, while continuing to strive for new improvements.

While you won’t be seeing me in a gym anytime soon, it is undeniable that the same dedication and persistence found in a good workout regiment can be used just as effectively when building the most important quote muscle unquote of all:

your brain!

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Accipio

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Have you ever had to keep a log of what you ate over the course of the week? Shit’s scary, isn’t it? Like, I know the things I put in my body are bad for me, but when it’s all listed out in front of me, sugars and calories and all that fun stuff in broad daylight, I can’t help but grimace at myself. Granted, nothing changes. As I’ve said, my body is not a temple, and I sort of just float by on my metabolism.

Now, apply the same situation to Internet usage. How often do you use it? What do you get on with? How long are your sessions? What spurs you to get on in the first place?

Scott Beale Photo CC-by Scott Beale, I wonder what proof this would be as an alcohol?

That’s the gist of an assignment done for my Digital Literacy class. I was asked to keep track of when I got on, why, how I felt, what I used, where I was, how long I was on, and what I did. The results are.. well, pretty mundane if you ask me.

Almost always, I use the Internet sitting down. Strange observation, sounds redundant, but it was part of what needed to be tracked. Whether killing time in my seat before a class, in my “nest” at home (on the couch next to Ms. Fish), or sitting and loafing on my friend’s couch, I’m almost always sitting, preferably with my feet up, in a relaxed, somewhat-slouching state.

It’s always my phone, too. Rarely ever my laptop, unless I’m doing homework for this class. Since I’ve gotten a smartphone, I like to pretend my dependency / attachment to the Internet has lessened – after all, I’m no longer on my computer all the time, right? Right? 95% of the time, it’s my smartphone that provides my window to the web. It was usually routine-like. I’d check Facebook, check my e-mail, and when done with what I abstractly considered “obligations,” I’d get on Reddit and read up about the video games I’m currently playing or anticipating the release of. Plus an occasional Cracked article or four. It was almost never to do homework, never for the sake of research – very little more than mindless meandering.

Eris Stassi Photo CC-by Eris Stassi, how many people do you think would go broke?

One thing that did vary that I found somewhat interesting, was the temperament that spurred me to get on the web. This is all over the place. For before class sessions, it would be boredom, or rather, anticipation – kill time, squeeze as much leisure and idiocy as I can in before having to actually engage my brain.

With friends or at home, it’s boredom, or perhaps even routine. Few minutes with nothing to do before leaving? E-mail. Just wake up in the morning and sitting trying not to die? Facebook! Friends all on their phones or respective devices being a collective hive-minded vegetable? Reddit!

The most fascinating one to me was my usage of the Internet when angry. Sometimes life deals you a shitty hand, and you don’t get a re-draw. You just deal. Often, in my post-anger cool-down phase, I would whip out my phone and scroll / click furiously. Anything, any distraction I can get, I need my brain off. That consists of either auto-piloting and clicking wherever I can, or attempting to overload myself with needless information until my brain goes into “CRITICAL OVERLOAD” and shuts itself off.

It’s been an interesting little experiment. It’s helped me see how much of a creature of habit I can be – and what I need to do differently in terms of coping with certain events. Maybe if I’m bored I should carry a book around with me instead of read about the fact that PREDATOR IS IN THE NEW MORTAL KOMBAT GAME OMGOMGOMG

Erm. Anyway, when angry, maybe I just need to sit and disconnect for a second – turn my brain off the old fashioned way and meditate or just grapple with my irritations head-on. Or maybe I’m just reading too much into this and will do literally nothing to change my behavior. I wonder if there’s a sub-reddit on this.

Habitus